Leviticus 3:1 - 6:7
We now come to the third class of the offerings that were ordained under the law. The burnt offering and the meat offering were very closely connected: the first typifying the sacrificial death and blood-shedding of Christ in the excellence of His sweet savour before God; the second, the equally sweet savour of His perfect life in the energy of the Holy Spirit, tested even unto death. In the peace offering we have another aspect of His sacrifice which is based on the foregoing.
The very title of this offering would show us that it was to be brought by an Israelite whose conscience was in rest and peace before God. There was no compulsion about it; he just desired to bring it; In this respect it was the opposite to the sin or trespass offering, which was to be brought under compulsion by the Israelite, whose conscience was not in peace because of wrong-doing.
Again we notice that the animal offered might be taken from the herd or from the sheep or from the goats, and the animal must be without blemish. But. on the other hand more latitude was allowed for a female as well as a male might be brought. This is what we might expect, seeing that it is the response of the would-be worshipper that is before us here.
The laying of the hand upon the head of the victim, the shedding and sprinkling of its blood by the priests is the same as with the burnt offering, but now instead of the whole victim in its parts being burnt on the altar, only the fat from the inward parts was to be burnt for a sweet savour to the Lord. Since this inward fat would be the sign of an animal of health and vigour, it aptly symbolizes the excellence and energy of that devotion unto death which marked our blessed Lord. This came up as a sweet savour to God as the type indicates.
The fat then of the peace offerings was wholly claimed by God, and the last verse of the chapter states this very clearly. The fat must be burned on the altar, and the blood must be sprinkled on it round about. The people of Israel were to eat neither the one nor the other. The blood was the life of the victim and the fat was its excellence. This strict ordinance testified that man as a fallen sinner, has forfeited his own life, and has in himself no excellence in which he can stand before God. If he stands at all, it must be on the basis of the perfect life of Another poured out sacrificially before God, and in the excellence of the One who became the victim.
In this chapter we only learn what was to be done with the blood and the fat, which was God's portion. We have to turn to the law of the peace offering, given to us in Leviticus 7: 11-34, to learn that in the peace offering not only the priest had his share, but that the offerer himself had his portion. So that communion with God, as to the excellence of the sacrifice of Christ, is a distinguishing feature of this offering. But its details should come before us when we reach chapter 7.
There is in our chapter, however, one slight intimation of this feature in verses 11 and 16. Twice do we get the expression, "the food of the offering," which was made by fire, and which came up as a sweet savour to God. Now the word here translated "food" is far more frequently translated "bread," but whichever word we adopt as the better translation, we have conveyed to us the thought of food which provides a satisfying portion. And we are permitted to find a portion in that which is the "bread" of God.
As we have before noticed in these types, God begins from His own side of the matter and works down to us. Hence we start with the burnt offering and lastly come to the offerings for sin and trespass. On our side of the matter, we have to begin with the sin offering. Nothing is right, nor can we advance further, until our sins with all their guilt are settled. With the offering for sins Leviticus 4 is occupied.
In verse 2 let us note two things.
- First, the sin that is contemplated is "against any of the commandments of the Lord." As before remarked, "sin is not imputed [put to account] when there is no law (Rom. 5: 13). We have now reached the time when the law, with its many commandments in detail, has been given, so that when any of these commandments had been broken, the sin was at once put to account against the transgressor, and this particular offering was instituted to make atonement for the sinner.
- But second, the sins that were contemplated when this offering was instituted, were those committed "through ignorance." In this we see the compassion of our God shining out. He well knew the frailty and ignorance and forgetfulness that characterizes poor, fallen humanity, and this provision was made. Sin committed deliberately in cold-blooded defiance of God is not contemplated here; indeed we read in Hebrews 10: 28, "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses." Though God is a God of mercy, the law as such has no mercy in it, and therefore the merciful provision of the sin and trespass offerings only came into effect where the root of the sin was ignorance and not wilfulness.
Having read right through this chapter we at once see that the instructions fall naturally into four sections, according to the position held by the person or persons committing the sin. Upon that depended the gravity of the sin in the sight of God. Sin might be committed by
(1) the high priest himself;
(2) the whole congregation of Israel;
(3) a ruler;
(4) one of the common people.
Hence in each case certain differences come to light, though there are features that appear consistently in each of the four.
Let us first note these consistent features. In each case, when the sin was recognized it had to be confessed before God in a practical way by the bringing of the appropriate sacrifice to be killed before the Lord, and the guilty one had to lay his hand on the head of the victim, thus identifying himself with it. In the case of the whole congregation sinning this had to be done by the elders of the congregation, as representing the mass of the people.
This identification, however, may be distinguished from that which we saw in the case of the burnt offering, inasmuch as here it meant the identification of the victim with the sinner, so that the guilt of the sin was transferred from the sinner to the victim, which would die in his stead. In the case of the burnt offering it signified the reverse and complementary thought of the offerer being identified with the sweet savour and acceptance of the offering. Both these things unite in the antitype—the propitiatory and substitutionary death of our blessed Lord.
In each case the victim was slain. Death is the wages of sin, and no sentence can be pronounced as an alternative to that. This is acknowledged in our law courts. A prisoner may be sentenced to a fine, with imprisonment as an alternative. But we never hear a judge sentence a man to death, with the alternative of prison or anything else. In all its gravity the death sentence on sin stands alone. This is clearly foreshadowed here. In each case the blood of the victim was sprinkled before the Lord, though not in each case sprinkled in just the same way. The sprinkled blood testified before God that the death sentence was accomplished, and, "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17: 11).
Also in each case certain parts of the inwards and all the fat was to be taken and burnt upon the altar just as the fat of the peace offerings was burned. Nothing is said as to this burning being for a sweet savour as was the case with the peace offerings. The fat truly spoke of the excellence of the victim, which was a needful thing if there was to be atonement made for sin, but the point now is the covering of man's sin, rather than the gratification that is brought to God.
Lastly, in each case there was the forgiveness of the sin in virtue of the sacrifice. In the first case, that of the anointed priest, this fact is not mentioned, but evidently he was no exception to the rule. If we would understand the nature of the forgiveness that is mentioned, we must read and consider Romans 3: 25.
In that important verse the word translated "remission" is one that means a "passing over," and it is the only time the word occurs in Scripture. In that verse we find that in Christ and His propitiatory death God has declared His righteousness in passing over the sins of His people in His forbearing mercy during the ages before Christ came. Holy angels, who may well have known what is stated in Hebrews 10: 4, that, "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins," may have wondered where was the righteous basis for the forgiveness offered in Leviticus 4. It was the death of Christ that declared God's righteousness in this, and vindicated His action. The sacrifices and the forgivenesses of Old Testament times were like promissory notes with a distant due date. The due date came when Christ died, and turned the notes into the pure gold of a divinely accomplished redemption.
Now consider the differences in the four sections. If the anointed priest sinned, then we have the most serious case of all. He was the appointed link between the people and God, and the whole people were involved with himself. So a young bullock without blemish had to be offered, and its blood had to be sprinkled not only on the altar without, but carried into the sanctuary and sprinkled seven times before the vail and on the horns of the altar of incense. In type, the worship of the people was interrupted in the sin of the man, who presented it before God in the fragrance of the incense. Until the blood was sprinkled there could be no priestly action before the Lord on behalf of the people.
We find just the same features in the second case, that of the sin of the whole congregation. In this case possibly the priest himself was not implicated, but even so he would be left without any people fit to be represented before the Lord, so in effect the result was very much the same. In both these cases, where the sin was of a gravity affecting all, the body of the victim was to be carried without the camp and burnt there.
To this fact Hebrews 13: 11 refers, and the application for us is given in the next verse. The sacrifice of Christ was for others and had in view the whole people, thus fitting in with the type. When He suffered, the days of Israel's wilderness camp were over, and Jerusalem was their city. Well, He suffered without the gate of their religious centre. The place of the Christian now, even if by nature a Jew, is outside that religious system in association with the rejected Christ who died and lives again.
When a ruler or one of the common people sinned, the animals brought for sacrifice were of lesser value. The blood was applied to the altar without, but not carried to the sanctuary within. Correspondingly the body of the victim was not to be burned without the camp. What was to be done with these bodies we are not told here. When we come to the law of the sin offering we find that it provided very holy food for the priests and their sons.
Details concerning the trespass offerings follow in Leviticus 5 and the first 7 verses of Leviticus 6. A trespass might be committed against one's fellow as well as against God and His holy things and a number of ways are specified in which trespass could take place.
The sacrifices enjoined reveal two things. First, that a trespass against God in His holy things is a more serious matter than a trespass against man, consequently the offerings prescribed in verses 15 and 18, and also in Leviticus 6: 6 are of a more substantial sort than the others. To touch an unclean thing, or to state something on oath erroneously has not the same gravity before God as to defile holy things or to do violence and deceit to one's neighbour and thus dishonour the name of the Lord.
For these lesser trespasses a lamb or kid, or two young pigeons might be brought; and of these two one might be offered as a burnt offering after the first had been offered as a trespass offering. Again, if so poor that a man could not bring even two pigeons! he might bring so little as the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour and the priest might offer as a trespass offering even that. When fine flour was offered as a meat offering there must be with it both oil and frankincense. Here both these are expressly excluded. The sweet savour element was wanting in that which had compulsorily to be offered in atonement for the wrongdoing of sinful men.
We read in Hebrews 9: 22, that "almost all things are by the law purged with blood." Here is a case in point, which made it necessary to put the word, "almost," before the word, "all." In the case before us we see the kindness of God considering the very great poverty of some of His erring people. The priest might eat the residue as though it had been a meat offering, but nevertheless the handful was burned as a sin offering.
Another thing marked these trespass offerings, where the rights of men had been infringed. The trespasser had not only to bring his offering to God but he had to make amends to the one whom he had trespassed against. If the evil had brought loss in the holy things of God, he had to make amends, as we see in Leviticus 5: 16. And so also if a man had suffered loss, as we see in Leviticus 6: 3. Reparation had to be made on the same basis in both cases. What had been lost originally had to be repaid and a fifth part added to it. Nothing more just than this can be found. Many a robber would not mind doing a bit of imprisonment if he be allowed to retain the gain he has made. But to lose all he made plus a fifth part beyond takes all the glamour from the wrong-doing.
In the light of this we see how very exceptional was the statement of Zacchaeus, recorded in Luke 19: 8. He could say, "If I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." This was going far beyond that which the law demanded, and by the man of the world it would have been considered over-scrupulous honesty; so much so that if anyone merited salvation Zacchaeus must have done so. All such thoughts were brushed aside by the Lord when He said, "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
The most virtuous observance of the law in one of its details does not compensate for the infringement of it in other details. Hence we read "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight" (Rom. 3: 20). Zacchaeus had to receive salvation as a true "son of Abraham," that is as a believer—see, Galatians 3: 7.
We cannot doubt that the principles laid down in verses 2-5, have their application today to any wrongdoing or offence against man on the part of a Christian. Even if done inadvertently, the believer should be most careful to make reparation, as full as may be within his power. The fact that we are not under law, but under grace with its higher standards, should make us most careful not to fall below the standard which the law has set in this matter.
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